To spread some holiday spirit, Firstborn, the design and technology agency based in NYC, decided to create a Santa-themed room-scale VR video game called Nick. With staff representation from over 14 different countries, the agency is used to collaborating with varying points of view, however for this project the team had to find a new way of working together to launch the game in under a month.
Firstborn Senior Copywriter Sam Isenstein tells DIVERGE how they created the experience:
Where did the idea come from?
We thought it’d be nice to do something a little out of the ordinary for the holidays. We’ve been developing VR content for a number of our clients, mainly for the Oculus, and thought it would be fun to build on our experience to see not only how far we could get on our lonesome, but also how far we could get with the HTC Vive. Survivalist Santa and deranged killer robot elves seemed like the logical next step.
Who is the team behind the idea?
It was definitely a group effort—the game itself was built by a team of super dedicated 3D designers and artists, but the entire campaign certainly took some doing. I think every department and discipline within Firstborn was represented in some way throughout the process.
How long did it take to complete?
About a month, Ron and Mike (the game designers) really burned the candle at both ends to pull this thing off in time for the holidays. While they worked on the game, the broader team worked concurrently to make the trailer, website, etc., so we could be sure that everything lined up and the story was consistent.
What kind of feedback have you received from it?
We’ve shared the game with employees, reporters and clients, and they’ve all loved it, but our toughest audience is definitely the gamer community. Thankfully they have been pretty receptive and are eager to upload and play. The idea isn’t cutesy or cloying and I think people appreciate that… the season can get a little saccharine.
What is your favorite part of this project?
Actually watching people play it—seeing them flail wildly somehow never gets old.
How does this reflect for the work you do for clients?
Well, I think it really illustrates how deep our bench is—and how many skillsets and disciplines we’re working with under one roof. Creative development, production, design, copy, strategy… all of our capabilities were used to make a cool idea come to life. It’s a pretty fearsome conglomerate of collaborative talent—and when that energy is brought to bear on client problems, cool things happen.
Do you plan on working on similar projects to this one for other holidays?
We’re still polishing up the game and working on additional features like achievements, badges, a tutorial intro—little elements that didn’t make it into beta release. As for next year, we were kicking around a Macabee variant… so I guess you’ll have to stay tuned.
How important is diversity for Firstborn?Diversity is essential. We have so many different people from so many different backgrounds, working together to achieve shared goals. That’s the only way we can pull off the projects that we do at the level of quality we demand—a diverse group of smart, talented people with different points of view working together to solve the same problem.
Must-haves in story/additional thoughts?
I was the voice of Santa. Ironic.